From The Field.. Protecting the last Malayan tigers

The Malayan tiger is a critically endangered species, at a real risk of extinction, mainly as a result of illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking: according to the Malaysian authorities, fewer than 200 are left.

A century ago, there were approximately 100,000 wild tigers in their various natural habitats worldwide; that number has decreased to around 3,500 today, with three out of nine subspecies of wild tigers declared extinct within the last 70 years.

At present, tigers are under severe pressure from a variety of interlinked threats: poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, loss of prey species, disease, roadkill, and habitat destruction, to name just a few. The challenge is exacerbated by the interrelationships between threats and their overlapping timeframes. In the short term, the illegal wildlife trade has the greatest potential to crater the tiger population, whereas the long-term survival of the tiger will depend on cohering fragmented tiger habitats (or rehabilitating adjacent degraded ones) into a functioning whole.

Optimally, these tactics are symbiotic – interdicting the illegal wildlife trade maximizes the potential for tiger survival in the near-term, while preserving habitat increases opportunities for accessing prey and improves the probability of mating and giving birth to future generations. Crucially, both aspects of the strategy require a great deal of public- community partnership, and local community involvement and buy-in to achieve success.

The Central Forest Spine (CFS) of Peninsular Malaysia is widely recognized for its extraordinarily rich biodiversity and ecosystems, including some of the last remaining wild populations of the endangered Malayan tiger.

The Improving Connectivity in the Central Forest Spine Landscape (IC-CFS) project is a collaborative effort between the Malaysian Government and international bodies to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services. With funding from Global Environment Facility (GEF) and support from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the project is working to restore contiguous forest landscapes in Central Forest Spine. An integral part of the project is targeted support to wildlife enforcement systems. Specifically, the project is improving the wildlife crime intelligence system through the integration of wildlife enforcement operations to protect tigers and reduce wildlife crime in Malaysia.

Working across three landscapes in Perak, Pahang, and Johor, the broader ecosystem is linked by connecting fragmented forest areas through the establishment of ecological corridors. This initiative is crucial for the preservation of the unique Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni), a critically endangered species at dire risk of extinction.

More than 160 snares have been destroyed around the Sungai Yu ecological corridor since the first CAT Walk programe in 2010.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has also collaborated with DWNP to conduct patrols and monitoring in the Belum and Temengor Forest Reserves, which brought about a 90% decline in hunting activities.

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